In 2010, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council passed a “Resolution in Support of Preserving Environmental Laws and Building Environmental Partnerships” which declared that the Council “supports outreach and partnership with the environmental community in order to strengthen efforts to fight for a better quality of life for all working people; and supports efforts to preserve environmental laws; and condemns efforts to weaken and undermine environmental laws; and declares our labor community to be stronger when working together with environmental allies; and urges the California Labor Federation and other labor councils and bodies throughout the nation to adopt the same position as this Council.”
That resolution affirmed labor’s support for existing environmental laws and recognized the impact that environmental pollution, the water crisis, and climate change have on workers’ lives and health while noting that the negative effects of the climate crisis “will disproportionately impact disenfranchised communities with the least resources.” Hence, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council committed to promoting smart growth, green jobs, and real partnerships with the environmental community in order to work toward environmental and economic justice.
Since 2010, the science on climate change has only presented us with more and more severe warnings about the dire consequences of continuing on the same course. As a historical force for progressive change and social justice, the labor movement can, and must, play a powerful role in calling for swift action to address the climate crisis and in producing tangible solutions that will ensure we are strengthening, not weakening, our middle-class as we transition to a more sustainable economy. The idea that the market is the only thing that truly matters in human existence is a central obstacle to achieving economic and environmental justice. We know from experience that the labor movement must be at the table to shape the conversation if we are to effect positive change for working people.
Historically, we have been sold the myth that we must choose between good jobs and a clean environment. This is a false choice and has been perpetuated by a multi-billion dollar corporate network that dominates the political and public sphere. Thus the challenge is big and the answer is to change the game.
Any successful movement to address the looming threat of climate change must also involve an accompanying revolution in values, a paradigm shift. As Naomi Klein put it when speaking to one of Canada’s largest labor unions last year: “climate change—when its full economic and moral implications are understood—is the most powerful weapon progressives have ever had in the fight for equality and social justice. But first, we have to stop running away from the climate crisis, stop leaving it to the environmentalist, and look at it. Let ourselves absorb the fact that the industrial revolution that led to our society’s prosperity is now destabilizing the natural systems on which all of life depends.”
In that spirit, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Environmental Caucus is committed to:
- Engaging our members and the community about labor’s role in advocating for tangible solutions to the climate crisis that simultaneously strengthen our middle-class.
- Letting our members know that good green jobs don’t kill construction projects, in fact in some cases it actually increases opportunity.
- Insisting that those who might be displaced should be retrained for the new economy as well as ensuring that the green economy is creating union career opportunities to ensure a just transition for working people.
- Building and sustaining real partnerships with the local environmental movement and community groups committed to economic and environmental justice.
- Pushing for bold new political and policy initiatives that move beyond lip service to effectively address the two great issues of our age—historic economic inequality and climate change
Purpose of the Caucus
With these global goals of the mission statement in mind, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Environmental Caucus’s specific purpose is to:
- Educate our members and the community about the pressing environmental issues of our day and possible solutions to the present crisis.
- Build strong alliances and partnerships between labor and other environmental and community groups.
- Serve as a policy body inside the labor council that assures that labor’s agenda always includes an environmental focus and that labor’s issues are always present in larger discussions of environmental issues.
- Promote progressive labor/environmental legislation.